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A leather jacket is a big investment. It's not the kind of piece you purchase to wear for just one season; you want it to stand the test of time. Not only that, but your leather jacket should look fierce and feel fabulous. Choosing between horsehide and cowhide is a matter of personal preference and desired price range. Before you cruise the online selection or hit your favorite leather goods store, get the lowdown on what each hide has to offer.
Before 1950, because of the abundance of horsehide and lack of regulation, military and high-performance leather jackets were made from horsehide. It was the go-to leather because of its strength and durability. After the 1950s, new laws and the decline of the equine industry made horsehide scarcer. Horsehide jackets are still available, but they're more expensive. The upside to horsehide is that it's lighter and thinner than cowhide and has a coarser grain, making it more resistant to abrasions. It also has more natural markings than cowhide, which -- depending on what you're looking for -- can either be a plus or a minus.
Cowhide is much more versatile and more readily available than horsehide. It's also way more affordable, and you have a larger selection of styles to choose from. Cowhide is more consistent in weight and has more useable area, making it easier to work with. If you choose to go with cowhide, know that you also need to determine whether you want a cowhide, steerhide or calf hide jacket. Cowhides have much more stretch and more natural markings than steerhide. Calf hides are lighter and have a finer grain. One isn't better than the other; it's just a matter of personal preference.
There's no rule that says you have to stick to horsehide or cowhide for your leather jacket. You can also find find leather jackets made from lambskin and goatskin. Lambskin is super luxurious. In fact, fashion designers love to work with this high-end leather because it's soft, lightweight, has a beautiful finish and drapes well. Surprisingly, goatskin is perfect for leather jackets. It's soft, supple and super comfortable. Goatskin also lasts forever and sometimes looks even better with age.
Choosing a leather is just the beginning. You also need to narrow down what style jacket suits you. If you're looking for something rough and tough, go for a motorcycle jacket with loads of zippers and studs. Gals yearning for a jacket with a hip, youthful edge may want to try a cropped leather jacket with a hood or an asymmetrical front closure. More conservative types love donning a leather trench or a leather blazer. Get the most bang for your buck and pick a style you can wear during the day and at night, with a variety of outfits.